This is a tough one.
In one corner, we've got Trudy Jones, a friendly, knowledgeable councilor with few accolades and a problematic position on APD. In the other, there's Greg Payne, a lively contender who says the Council has to do more to get in front of this police-shooting issue. He's got political experience, too. But it's not all good experience.
It's odd that Payne doesn't mention his previous time as a councilor on his Facebook campaign page. Maybe that's because his term from 1999 to 2003 was fraught with controversy, arguments and accusations. He did a one-year stint in the Legislature, then split mid-term to take a job as the city's transit director. He held that position under Mayor Martin Chavez and resigned when Berry became mayor.
District 8 is a largely conservative region, and Payne and Jones are both Republicans. Both are concerned about private industry. In fact, Payne's using that to couch his argument about APD. Businesses considering Albuquerque probably see the high number of officer-involved shootings as a black mark, he says. "It doesn't send a good message."
Payne says we could consider a change in leadership in the department. "Something needs to be done more than just, Well, that's the way it goes, and we're working on it."
Jones takes a more hands-off approach. "The Council should guide and encourage," she says. "We do have a police chief who answers to the mayor. The Council should certainly be aware of what's happening. But I don't believe it's necessarily their job to try to micromanage and direct that department." She voted against the request to have the Department of Justice look into APD. She says she's not sure we want or need such an investigation or that the feds can solve the problem.
Jones says she's most proud of making the city run better during her tenure. That means editing and getting rid of legislation that doesn't work well. For her, it's more about what she eliminated than what she added, though she says a councilor's job is to provide better services to the citizens. When listing her accomplishments, she says the Council is a far more civil body than it was four years ago. Other veteran councilors echoed that sentiment in their interviews.
In the last decade, Payne's done a lot more than fight with other politicians. He was the original sponsor of a bill that puts aside 1 percent of the general bond for energy conservation efforts. (That was later expanded to 3 percent by Councilor Isaac Benton.)
He and former Councilor Eric Griego fought for clawback provisions in the Industrial Revenue Bonds, he says. Basically, if a company receives bond money to do business in Albuquerque but then bails, the company has to pay back most of the cash.
Payne likes to talk budget in a conservative, cut-spending way, but his plans aren't great. He'd like to downsize sick leave and family leave for city employees who abuse the system. But given the scale of the city's budget, this would likely save a proportionately small amount of money. Hunting down lazy public employees sounds good on the campaign trail, but it's unlikely to produce significant results.
He also takes aim at the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau. "They haven't done very well" marketing the Convention Center, he says. He points out that the bureau doesn't have to compete for its contract. “This is a case where we say it's a private-sector entity, but it really isn't." Again, this seems a strange focus that wouldn't create much in the way of savings for the city's overall budget.
Councilor Jones takes a typically Republican approach to the bad economy: The government needs to get out of the market's way and create a pleasant, easy environment in which the private sector can thrive. She says the second-biggest problem in Albuquerque is education, which ties into jobs. "Unfortunately, the city has very little impact on education." That left us scratching our heads. Surely, if it's No. 2 on the list, councilors can find a way to help our public system.
Payne says the biggest problem with his district, is its makeup: It's full of empty-nesters. He would like to see this area revitalized with young blood. Like Nob Hill, he says, the area should be more walkable. "We need to focus on making sure that it remains a community with a potential to renew itself."
In contrast, Jones seems to like the area as it is. Hers is a comfortable, finished district, she says. "We're very blessed." But there could be another community center, she adds, and much-needed renovations have begun on Bear Canyon Senior Center.
Payne says he looks back on his contentious first go-round on the Council with regret. He mixed it up with Jim Baca too much in 1999, and it wasn't good for the city. At the same time, he criticizes Mayor Berry on some points but promises he wouldn't go to war with him. He takes issue with the way the budget was passed: Amendments were tacked on last-minute, and the Republican voting bloc (of the theoretically nonpartisan Council) forced them all through.
We like Trudy Jones, but we think Payne could bring positive change and discourse to the Council. He also seems mature enough to keep his ego in check in the interest of getting things done.